The Interview: Brooke Candy

Published on 06 May 2014

[S]tripper-turned rapper Brooke Candy is getting set for stardom. Having recently been taken under the wing of none other than Nicola Formichetti, Brooke was chosen to front the latest Diesel accessories campaign. Formichetti’s influence is evident in Candy’s latest video ‘Opulence’, and its high production value demonstrates the shape of slicker things to come. Recently signed to RCA records, now working with top producers and with a debut album in the works, the LA-based artist has come a long way from the homelessness and addiction which plagued her early life.

Brooke Candy first grabbed the attention of the industry in Grimes’ 2012 video for ‘Genesis’ in which we were introduced to her sci-fi/futuristic maximal style including impossibly long fake nails, braids and barely there outfits. She seemed to use her sexuality as a weapon and her appearance as a barrier. This image was her signature, and in interviews, songs and videos, for example like ‘Das Me’, Brooke quickly demonstrated her desire for provocation. Openly gay, she coined the term #fagmob for her crew and fans, claiming to represent the outsiders of society. As opposed to many pop hopefuls on the scene now, Candy is adamant that her raunchy image is backed by genuine artistry. Despite her tiny frame and youth (she’s still only 25), Brooke’s presence, experience and strength of opinion are undeniable.

As she ushers in a new chapter of her career, this outspoken nature is something that definitely hasn’t changed. When we interviewed Brooke in person about a month ago, it was clear that something has mellowed but she’s still fiercely outspoken, unable to sit down, with views on just about everything. But gone were many of her previous OTT style signatures. Though still clearly made up, this was a cleaner Brooke Candy. Underneath the vigour of her message you could feel her innate warmth. She could easily eat you for breakfast but only if you deserved it.

Her Opulence  EP is out on the 5th of June and heralds a new chapter in Brooke’s career. She wants to bring her message – of equality and freedom of expression – to a wider audience and toning down the swearing and nudity is one way of doing it. But really, she’s more than capable of explaining all of this herself. Read our interview with the inimitable artist and find out about her stance on ‘new’ feminism, how much she loves Lorde and why one day she may be sporting an afro and a peg-leg…

YOUR MUSIC HAS ALWAYS HAD A MESSAGE BEHIND IT. WHAT WOULD YOU SAY IS THE MESSAGE BEHIND THE NEW EP?

The message is the same; I’m standing up for the disenchanted youth, I’m really trying to spawn some sort of revolution with our generation because I feel we’re being fed a lot of bullshit that causes us to be indifferent. I’m a feminist, I’m young and I’m gay (though I’ve now come to the conclusion that I feel more pansexual). I feel like I’m awakening to this new stage of consciousness but my message will always be the same. I just want people to pay attention and to really look around and understand what’s going on. Although it might not be fun, I want them to read up on politics and world news. I want people to be knowledgeable and know what’s going on because there are a lot of horrible, sad things happening. The message stays the same forever. I’ll push it and push it until I’m gagged and choked and dead. I will push this message until someone shoves something in my mouth and puts a gun to my head.

The EP in itself is the start of a newer, cleaner sound; less intense. It’s still polarizing but it’s less isolating. I’m working with such talented producers… We have Diplo, he produced the lead single ‘Opulence’, which is the Steven Klein video. We have Dr Luke on it, Cory Enemy, Benny Blanco… I’ve also been writing with Sia to enhance the pop side, as I’ve never really understood the structure of a pop song.

IS THAT THE WAY THAT YOU’RE GOING, TOWARDS POP?

Slowly, yeah. It’s not going to be a straight flip flop because that’s not realistic. If I’m not going to buy it then no one’s going to buy it, you know? The reason I want to transition, change my sounds and make music that really hits the masses is because I want my voice, ideals and agenda to reach more people. It’s not to do with fame or money. I don’t feel that many artists do that, where they are conscious of the fact they have a huge platform and are able to actually do something with it. Because artists are worshipped almost like gods now. It’s very odd. They have this influence over younger generations yet they choose to do nothing with it and use what they have for selfish purposes.

WHAT ABOUT SEXUALITY? THE ISSUE OF HYPER-SEXUALITY IS REALLY PREVALENT IN THE MUSIC INDSUTRY AT THE MOMENT WITH SOME PEOPLE DOING IT JUST TO SELL RECORDS. HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT THAT?

I think it’s really difficult to differentiate why one artist is doing it versus another artist. It’s very difficult unless you are well spoken enough to make it apparent to everyone why you’re doing it. If you make people aware of why you’re doing it, it’s fine. But there’s a difference between someone like me, who came from living out of my car, working up to this level by myself and you know, really feeling like a minority in the way I’ve been treated, in terms of being gay and the things I’ve had to deal with as a woman. I come from a different world so when I take my clothes off it’s an expression of liberation and of of freedom, in my head at least. I have a lot of imperfections and I’m very proud of them. I want other women to feel the same.  There is of course always that element of freaking people out and I like that, but the main idea behind it is to just promote positive body imagery and loving yourself, so that’s why I do it. As far as a Disney star like Christina Aguilera, who gets naked in a video…that is selling sex. I love that ‘Dirrty’ video but her body was so conventionally sexy – and Britney Spears too – these women who by conventional standards have perfect form and then show it, and they’re not well-spoken enough to explain why they’re doing it. It’s for other reasons and to sell records. It’s so frustrating that people can’t see that we’re two different kinds of artists. It’s my choice and I’m sure it wasn’t theirs.

IT’S A SHAME THAT YOU’RE ALWAYS GOING TO HAVE TO EXPLAIN THAT…

It’s not a shame, it’s ok. It’s just a shame that people don’t get it right off the bat but the more people ask me about it, the more I explain it and the more I get the message out. And then maybe it will spawn another kind of revolution in that way, which is great. I’m trying to spawn as many revolutions as I possibly can.

WHO ELSE DO YOU FEEL IS PROMOTING FEMINISM IN THE ARTS, ESPECIALLY MUSIC?

Lorde, definitely. I feel like there are two types of feminism – there’s the old school feminism and then there’s the new school. I feel like I’m the new breed. I know some old school feminists, like in their 60s, and I’ve had some really intellectual conversations with them and they don’t get it. They’re like, “no you’re not doing it right” and I’m like, “no, you listen to me. I am doing it right, it’s a different age. Trust me, trust me.’ This is how it needs to be. It’s about just loving yourself and not caring. Lorde is so talented but she’s not your conventionally beautiful person. I love her. I love the way she performs, it’s a bit possessed and she’s so well spoken, especially for her age. Sia is another one. She’s very keen on pushing women and helping women, as far as business relations go. Madonna obviously, Madonna forever is a feminist. I mean, I don’t know if you just saw her last Instagram selfie, she has her arm out with full armpit hair which she’s been growing out for like six months. I can’t remember what the caption was but it was so punk rock and I was like, “fuck yeah Madonna, you fucking rule.” But she’s too smart to not be a feminist. Any woman that isn’t is very strange to me. Courtney Love is obviously a feminist, hardcore. I think Miley has it in her and I think as far as where she’s come from, she’s doing things that are pushing the envelope. I mean you can push way harder but in terms of where she’s come from, she’s really pushing it. What other Disney star is going to do these things? She’s literally like, “I don’t care”. That is in itself a new kind of feminism. It’s like, “I just don’t care, you cannot tell me what to do” and I think she’s kind of encapsulating that. I still think she has a bit to learn about it and I don’t know how she will learn it, because who around her will teach her?

There are some artists who have actually denounced their belief in feminism and they’re some of the most powerful female artists that exist in the music industry, with platforms of like 50 million twitter followers, who have said, “I’m not a feminist, I don’t believe in it”. That is absolutely horrifying because feminism is just equality.  That’s where people get confused. I’m not sure if it’s that women aren’t willing to say that they are feminist out of fear the men who are backing them will pull their funding… Whatever they’re afraid of, there’s nothing to be afraid of because it’s just pushing for equality.

SOME PEOPLE MIGHT ARGUE THAT NOT EVERYONE WHO MAKES MUSIC HAS TO HAVE AN OPINION… SOME PEOPLE JUST LOVE MAKING MUSIC. WHAT DO YOU THINK OF THAT?

I think that’s really irresponsible, I hate it. My generation worships certain pop stars, they stalk these people and latch onto their every word. But what are they actually latching onto? I believe that with great power comes great responsibility. So you may come into the music industry and be like, “oh I just want to make music for myself, I just want to sing”, but if you reach a certain level then it becomes a much bigger thing and it’s not just for yourself anymore. If it is, fuck you, you’re a selfish asshole because you have millions and millions of people that are looking up to you and you’re just going to strum your guitar for yourself? No, it’s your responsibility to say something, to do something. Bono, U2, all these people – they all understand, they all speak out against things at their concerts. Someone showed me this video of Madonna, she’s on a guitar and then she goes, “put your fucking hands up if you’re into energy conservation!” I was like “yeah bitch! That’s so sick!” But that’s what I’m talking about, she understands that when you are given this gift, it’s an amazing job to have and you’re able to express yourself. Music is a universal language and I’ve tried every kind of art, but this is by far the biggest release. So when you’re given this gift to just release your everything, you should also pay attention to the responsibility that is attached. If you’re not willing to do it then you shouldn’t have the job. Back off and let some people who want to change the world take over.

YOUR IMAGE HAS BEEN VERY VIVID AND STRONG FROM THE BEGINNING. HOW DO YOU THINK IT HAS EVOLVED AND HAS IT SURPRISED YOU THE WAY THAT THE FASHION INDUSTRY HAS EMBRACED YOU?

I still don’t think anyone knows who I am. So basically what you’re looking at now is me but everyday I feel differently. Humans evolve and when I started this I was in a really dark place. I was homeless, so the way I felt inside, my thought processes, all of these things contributed to the way I looked. If you look at old videos, I looked fucking crazy. I looked like a cyborg insane alien and it wasn’t thought out. It was like, “oh, I need to sit down and have my hair braided and pulled for 14 hours and I need to wear this paper outfit and I need to do this because it suits what’s happening and what’s going on in my head right now.” At the time it made sense. It was so odd for me, because I was literally wearing outfits that were made of paper and I was so ghetto!

Nicola [Formichetti] really loves street culture and people that come from the gutter and have a brain, so when he reached out I was like, “thank god!” Because when you have the support of the fashion industry, that’s a very persuasive support system; they have a lot of power. I’ve been accepted by one person, and he’ll help me and then tell others. Since then it’s just been a gradual evolution. Sitting here right now, I feel so at peace and I’m not in that dark place anymore. I worked so hard to get out of that place. I mean I still have my inner demons – that’s why I get my tattoos, it’s my release. But when I go to sleep at night and I’m in my bed, I’m content. So the way I look is just more simple, I don’t feel like I need to put on this mask anymore. I still like to for performances and videos, because I like to become that character, but I used to wear that paper suit every day. I went to run errands like that! Now I feel like in my day to day life I can be much more toned down. I mean I’m obviously not super toned down; there’s still an odd element there but it’s just that natural evolution of getting rid of a certain darkness and letting the light in. I just feel so happy with myself and what I’ve accomplished that I’m more focused on making videos and music that can reach more people. I feel great now, normal. I’m not saying anyway that that wasn’t me, it was 100% me, but this is also me. Who knows, in a year or two I might have an afro and a peg-leg – whatever works! Right now I just feel very very very happy, so I don’t feel the need to put too much effort into the way that I look. I just throw on some jeans and go to work. Does that make sense?

The Opulence EP is out on 5th June 2014. Pre-order the single here

Find out more about Brooke Candy on her website, follow her on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram.